Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Perfection is Not Real

Continue with me as we examine Ms. Perfection from chapter two of Lisa Whittle's Behind Those Eyes....

I have to say, after reading this chapter on Sunday, I thought "I have nothing to contribute." Once again, I'm hit with the reminder that I am no one's wife (legally) and I am no one's mother. Hit with those feelings of being the "odd one out" and the one who "doesn't have", I felt rebellious (maybe angry) over not having anything to contribute to this chapter. Don't get me wrong. It is not that I don't struggle with trying to do things perfectly. I do but not in the ways and areas described in the book...in the mother and wife roles and all that those roles entail.

Back up a little because before I read Ms. Perfection, I thought I'd have a lot in common with this chapter as I've always called myself a perfectionist.
I am the one who can literally see an extra space typed in a document or on the web.
I am the one who perfects the neat and orderly.
I am the one who does not like grass clippings in the flower beds (getting better).
I am the one who cleans up while cooking, even at the expense of burning the food (at times).

So with all that, I thought this chapter would just yell my name.

As I walked Monday night, I asked the Lord to give me something to share and to speak to me through the study questions, of which I had not done yet.

Speak, He did! It seems it is the questions that get my juices flowing from places truly unknown. So it is the result of those juices that I will share here.

I could only guess what makes us want people to see us as perfect. Maybe it is our desires to be perfect, to be praised, to be recognized by others. I think a lot of it is our own expectations of ourselves. We want to get it all done, not only to look good to others but to feel good in ourselves. Or it can be to hide our faults and failures, not only from others but from ourselves by denial. It can be painful to admit and reveal failure, pain, and sin. I do not know why another person's opinion matters to us but it does.

I want my nieces to feel I'm the best aunt.
I want my supervisors to feel I'm an outstanding employee and asset.
I want my friends to feel I'm open, available, and truly there for them.
I want my family to feel I love them the way they need.
I want my co-workers to feel I'm friendly and helpful.

I genuinely want these things and these people to feel and see these traits in me. God willing they will, most of the time. :-)

But in the end, it does not really matter what others think of me. I recall a conversation I had with a good friend several years ago. I told her I wish I could know exactly how others see me. She said "no you don't because the opinion of another person doesn't change your value." Amen? Yet, as humans, it still does matter. Plus, I still say I want to know because if there is an overriding negative characteristic that others see, I want to change it.

It is more important to recognize perfection is not possible so that we will stop trying to achieve it. To run after something impossible (perfection) means to fall into automatic disappointment. To expect perfection is to always expect failure. We will never measure up to perfection. It's really a waste of energy, time, and focus.

I love how Lisa said "But in her quest for perfection she has worked herself into a bad mood."
Oh how I remember those days. We have to quickly get groceries, be home by x time, cooking dinner will take x minutes. We'll have x time for yard work and then have to be at this place at this time. If any of that alters, what shall I do? Yes, it still happens but not as much because it's just me and less constraints. Living single can have that ONE benefit but I'd still trade it for my marriage ANY day.

Lisa asked us to "think of a woman in scripture who suffered from the perfection syndrome." Before she even suggested it, Martha immediately came to mind. No, Martha's attitude is not harmless. It's just the same when we are focused on a clean house, laundry, to do list, timelines, errands, and don't take the time for the real meaning in life - Christ, family, and others. What about the dad who pushes away little Johnny because of the work he brought home?. Or the mom busy with making dinner on time and not looking at little Sally's art project? That's what Martha was doing. So, yes, Martha's work, work, work attitude can be very harmful and depleting of those precious moments...like sitting at Jesus' feet. ahaa

Portraying perfectionism in any relationship will automatically set us up for unmet expectations. To portray perfection means to imply that perfection will come to pass. When it does not, disappointment arises and conflicts sprout.

Lisa spoke of her friend Tiffany who said "I have learned that peace comes from my relationship with Christ, not my weight, my clothing size, what car I drive, or how many church functions I attend." It is so true. I get caught up in my weight, my looks, approval of others, being liked by others, etc. and in reality none of that amounts to a hill of beans compared to my relationship with Christ. Those things can actually take away from my relationship with Christ. Being liked by another person will not give me peace because there's always yet another person who I'll want to like me. Loosing weight won't give me peace as I'll always want to be even skinnier. Having that perfect and easy hair do won't give me peace as I'll quickly tire of that too. However, we can never tire of Christ, His peace, and His presence. We can't get enough, can we? As long as we continue to strive in His character and grow in His love, our relationship with Him will never tire. It will always sustain. It will always fulfill. We have to trust Him to be our everything when we have nothing. I have to trust Him to be MY everything when I FEEL I have nothing.

In her challenge question, Lisa asked "is it more important for you to be seen as perfect in a certain area...or seen as real?" I absolutely do not want to be seen as perfect in any area. I feel perfection builds a wall. That is, when we see a woman as perfect, we cannot fully relate and connect with her. I want others to see me as real, reachable, and relatable. God cannot use perfect people nor can He use perfection in any area. Think about it, how does the perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect friend encourage another person? If a person is perfect, then she's never endured the struggles and trials so how can she relate and help those in the depths of turmoil and pain?

I want to be a woman with faults and weaknesses so that others can relate to me and reach out to me. I want to be that "As Seen on TV" product that when brought home, it really does work as seen on tv. (Kind of like the Ped Egg...I hear it is fabulous.)

"To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless." Psalm 119:96

Revealing the Imperfect,

Go to Lelia's to see other participants' blogs and comments.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Truth Be Told

Does the word truth scare you or excite you? The truth can be scary...sometimes to tell it and sometimes to hear it. Yes, the truth hurts but THE Truth heals.

In our online Bible study (hosted by Lelia) of Lisa Whittle's book Behind Those Eyes, we begin with chapter one "The Truth Hurts". As I began to write this post, I pondered on the television show Moment of Truth. If you ask me, that show is a disgrace that lines right up there with Swing Time. Yes, we are to be honest humans but there is a time and place for it. With millions of watchers, chancing for $500,000, is not the time to tell your husband that you don't want kids with him because he may not be the one. Come on. That's as low as sharing one's spouse on Swing Time. Trust me, I like me some tv but a minute or two of these and enough is enough. If I have to find out on national television the truth of my spouse luring at another with bedrooms eyes, then let me pay you $500,000 to keep your truth.

Okay, so that really isn't the kind of truth that I believe Lisa is referencing but I couldn't help but to think of this world's truth.

I loved the piece Lisa wrote titled Talking About Nothing. So, here's the truth...I don't like talking about nothing. You know...the conversations just to be pleasant. The person who walks into your office just wanting an ear on which to chew, seriously about nothing. You can tell when a person is making up words to just speak. I admit I have done this before when I just want to commune with someone. Yet, I long to talk about meat and not milk. I had never thought about my dislike for casual conversation until reading this section. Lisa hit it on the nose when she said her and her hair stylist were "talking about topics". That's it, I thought to myself. I don't like talking about topics either. Usually, if I do it is to get at a deeper root...that is to really know that person. I am the queen of questions and so if I ask a topical question or initiate a topical conversation, it is because I want to know more about that topic regarding that person.

When Lisa spoke about "females impersonating females", she said "We've perfected the fake laugh and the token smile." Yes, I admit I have a token smile, a fake smile. However, I'm pretty stingy with my laughs. For me to laugh, it is genuine. At times, embarrassing because of the loud haahhh that comes before it. The fake smile comes with our hiding our feelings right? I know it does for me. Those times when it does no good to disagree with another or to speak against what is being said. Why? Lisa says "our past experiences lead us to believe it is in our best interest to keep our true feelings inside." There have been many times I've kept my true feelings hidden. Has it been helpful or hurtful? I would suspect it's been helpful to the relationships and other people yet hurtful to myself. The truths kept hidden are situations where I see wrong occurring or where words and actions have hurt me. I don't want to be open and truthful to release my hurts just to in turn hurt the other person(s).

When we keep our true feelings hidden are we actually pretending or are we doing what's best? Lisa wrote about being Born Pretenders. Oh how this section reminds me of my two young nieces (5 and 7). They LOVE to pretend like no other little girls, especially the older one. Pretend to be a baby. Pretend to work. Pretend to be mommy (of her sister). Pretend to be Hannah Montana. Oh how I greatly dislike her pretending to be like another person. I try to express to her how she is unique and wonderful without being someone else (a blonde or a star or whomever). Unlike Lisa who was hiding her pretending (of winning the pagent crown) from her dad, my nieces love to pretend and don't care who watches.

"Make no mistake about it: women are yearning for something real. We're hungry for truth and authenticity. We crave honesty. We want someone to cut through the fluff and get to the bottom line." Lisa mentioned Dr. Phil and I once watched him for a period of months. Ironically at a time in my life when I was pretending. Pretending all the issues would go away. Pretending things would be okay. Pretending God would magically appear (like Lucky Charms). Pretending it wasn't that bad. Pretending I wasn't emotionally dead. Pretending I wasn't that deep in pain.

What you're after is truth from the inside out. Psalm 51:6 MSG. Lisa challenged us by asking if this is true in our lives and if we recognize the need for greater authenticity in the world and our relationships. Amen and Amen, yes! I'm trying to be real in my relationships without scaring people away. I believe my personality of being raw and real about my life and my feelings can be scary and maybe "too much" for others. I'm a rather "deep" person and for some maybe it can come across too deep and not light-hearted enough. It's there, trust me!! (My niece asked me why I have "tootles" at the end of my cell phone greeting...that's why...balancing depth with light-heartedness.) In my relationships, I try to create an atmosphere to pull out the authenticity of others--giving them the opportunity to be real and share the good, the bad, and the ugly without fear of rejection, judgment, or the town hearing it. I'm not accusing anyone of being "fake" but rather wanting to show people that it is safe to be authentic and real with me. I believe many women hide their true feelings and their authenticity because we don't know with whom it is safe to lay our heart and soul. We've all been burned, some beaten it feels, by the pain of relationships...and from other women at that. I desire to be real with others and thus them real with me. Society is not use to the realness of people - the raw, the real, the reality of human flaws and weakness. Rather, we're taught to hide the real, which is the weakness, sins, and flaws. We are to be strong, flawless, pure, without blemish. Per society, anyway. The Truth is, Jesus can only use the weak, the flawed, the blemished, the damaged. So that is what I want to be so I can be used by Him.

Lisa asked us how we define authenticity and how we see it. I wrote in my book genuine, real, what you see is what you get. Sometimes, it can be hard and deceiving to discern authentic people in our lives and to know "how" to see it. However, I base it on words, actions, intensity of words, expressions, tone, and the such. Of course, with longevity comes better discernment. I've never really pondered on the authenticity in others much but this really has me thinking about how I need to pray for discernment of authentic people in my life. Those who truly seek out to befriend me who care about me beyond the surface and regardless of what they find beneath. It's amazing how a trial in one's life really does reveal those true friends, those friends whose authenticity is revealed.

Wow...Lisa's last challenge question...what is your deepest soul craving? My deepest soul craving at FIRST thought...if you know me, you know what it is...a restored and thriving relationship with someone for His glory. However, at deeper thought, it would really be to have a deeper relationship with God, deeper longing, deeper knowing of God, His plan, and His desires for me as His child--not as someone's friend, wife, daughter, sister, co-worker. But, as His servant, His child, His beloved.

Just Tellin' the Truth,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Recognizing That I Recognize

Where do I begin? I never knew how close Ike could be to us Hoosiers. I live in southern Indiana and boy in all my life I've never seen the effects of a hurricane so close and so devastating in this area. It is not typical to feel a hurricane in Indiana but Ike sure has had its day with us.

What began as a Sunday afternoon planned with activities with family and nieces turned to days of very unexpected devastation and adjustment. Even as we finished our church service in the dark I thought nothing of it. We had emergencies lights so we could partake of the Lord's supper, give our offering, sing our praises, and all is well that ends well. We proceeded through town and everything was fine. Our lunch destination of Pizza Hut had been planned, grandma had been invited, and major cravings stirring for their special--salad bar, drink, and personal-size pizza. We met, we sat, we laughed, we drank, we ate. We ate salad. Our pizza never came because Ike came full force. Sunday at 12:30 was only the beginning. As we sat in Pizza Hut and watched shingles fly from the CVS roof, my anxiety began. "Oh Lord, my house is for sale, I cannot endure any damage, even lost shingles, on my house."

We only feared at this time that all electricity was gone at our houses. Instead of enjoying a day at my mom's, looking at reunion pictures online, chatting with the little ones, and maybe catching a family movie on tv, my gramma decided to head home. As I entertained my nieces in my mom's house, several times, I heard my mom yell for us to come here. The first time was for the swing that tipped over but the second...oh my. The second was for the tree that split in half and landed on the patio with only the top leaves and branches grazing the house. Then the work began. Even with 70 mile an hour winds, we were out there cutting the tree and dragging it to the street for eventual pick up.

The day lingered as we tried to entertain two little ones (5 and 7) with no electricity and not much non-cooking food.

All Sunday I felt such worry and heaviness in my heart. I pleaded with the Lord asking Him to please favor me and spare me any damage to my house or property since it is for sale. I have nine large trees in my yard and my property borders a small forest. I envisioned one of those trees in my garage, on my roof, through a window, damaging my house or deck. I feared the shingles of my 14 year old home gone. What would I do? Who would hurridly help me? Could I get anyone to fix the shingles, or repair the roof. Having one's house on the market is very stressful. It must always be in tip-top shape.

On my way home, the lines into about three (out of ten) fast food joints were unbelievable. Probably 25 cars and an hour wait in each. Again, I thought of my fridge and cupboards barely coveting anything not requiring cooking. I arrived home about 8:30 just as dusk was approaching. I went around back. "Oh, praise you, Jesus, I see no trees down and no major damage."

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. Psalm 20:1

Again, I was fretting about my whine down time. I have trouble falling asleep and I wondered how I would fare with no tv to aid my drowsiness, no fan to quiet my soul as I fell into bed, and no A/C to cool my body. I could do this though. I gathered my Bible and my Bible study book. I nestled onto the couch after opening all the windows upstairs only (safety you know). With my lantern beside me, and my books in hand, I had the most precious time with the Lord. I even began to be a little chilly and grabbed for the couch blanket. Reflecting back it was a very surreal moment. I was able to get drowsy at a decent time. I didn't have my fan to quiet my soul into sleep but I had some crickets and nature outside my window. I did not have my air conditioner but I had the very unusually cool night breeze.

...put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17b

I woke around 9:00 Monday morning. "Oh, praise you, Jesus. What provider You are. I survived and slept better than I had ever dreamed I could without electricity." God surely blessed me in this night. Another day without electricity and it was reported by the electric company it would still be 3-4 days more. Whatever would I do. How bad is this going to be. Our little town was reported to be one of the four hardest hit in our area according to the power source.

My workplace was closed so I got dressed and made my way to my mom's to visit with my girls. I thought I'd stop at one of the fast food joints that had been open Sunday night but boy was I surprised when I drove down the strip. Nothing was open. The ones previously opened were not but another that was previously closed was now open. I read the Bible as I waited in the drive-thru of Wendy's to get my chicken sandwich.

Again, I tried to have a lazy day with my nieces, not focusing on my own house. I should have been home picking up limbs and branches but thought time would be better spent with the girls since they would be heading home Monday night. Though most fast food chains were closed, the department stores were open. Okay. Say what? Strange but okay.

Early that evening I made my way to Wal-mart to get some non-cooking food. Bread for pbj sandwiches, chips, nuts, fruit. As I saw all the people passing me with their cold items--milk, meat, frozen items--I felt my spirit grunt. How dare them be in the store gloating by buying perishable items and making it known they had electricity. I continued with a bad spirit getting my necessities to survive. I drove all over town for water and batteries never to find batteries.

I arrived home about 6 pm...dreading how I'll spend the time in silence, no heatable food, no air condition, no lights, no tv for crying out loud. I did not bother with the garage door but entered through the side. As I entered, I saw the red lights on my phone and answering machine. My eyes immediately went to the microwave to find the two dots blinking. I whispered to myself "do I have electricity?" I flipped on the light switch to see my lights appear. I pushed my garage door button to see my door open. I stood in awe. How could this be? It's suppose to be days. I had already called work and told them to cancel the interviews I had for Tuesday because I would not be there without electricity at my house.

I unloaded my non-cooking food and ventured out to see the damage out side. It was more limbs, twigs, branches than I had originally thought. But, as I was squatting in the front flower bed, I whispered "Why Lord? Why have you blessed me so much, in so many ways?" I just kept saying over and over "Why Lord, Why?" I said this in my heart with the upmost respect and appreciation. I was in awe of why He would do this for me. I'm sure there are households with children without power and necessities. It was reported there were more power outages from this storm than the MASSIVE tornado we had in 1974.

Oh how I praised my Jesus and I'm still praising Him. My mom is still without electricity. My supervisor is without electricity. There are many without electricity and it is reported some could be without power until this Saturday. We have also been under a boil water advisory which can be impossible if there is no electricity. Thank God for gas grills as many are using them to boil and cook. My place of employment has not been without power during this disaster. I use the word disaster lightly because I know this is NOTHING compared to those in the southern states of Florida, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana. But it is a disaster for this area.

I still find myself speechless and in awe of God. I know that He has chosen me and done this for me for a reason. I do not share any of this to belittle the grave, grave devastation that others are experiencing. Rather, I must recognize that I recognize Christ in the midst of this storm. I believe God's presence in this physical storm has been a tool to reassure me of His presence in my emotional and personal storm.

I feel what the Lord has done in the many blessings of this storm has been a personal moment for Him and me. It was like in the midst of all these circumstances, He wanted to pile up these handful of blessings and say "this is for you, my sweet one. I AM here." It has been such a blessing that I truly cannot describe it adequately in words. He has blessed my socks off, for sure. He has reassured me that He IS working in my life and in the storms of my life. In recent days and weeks I have cried out to the Lord asking Him where He is at, why He's not working, why this, why that, wondering if He's forgotten me or just not "doing" anything about my cries to Him. The blessings of this physical storm have nothing to do with my personal storms yet they serve as a HUGE reminder of my God speaking to me and providing such reassurance of His presence.

He IS my air conditioner.
He IS my fan.
He IS my entertainment.
He IS my shelter.
He IS my food.
He IS my sleep.

He provided all these things in His way. An air conditioner through His cool nights. A noisy fan through His nature. A shelter from massive property damage. Sleep for a sleepless girl. Warm food through a grill instead of an oven.

I don't know if this will bring much encouragement to any of you. I know this is already long but you know that in my posts I want them to be about God and to be about YOU...touching you in some way to enrich your life, strengthen your walk, encourage your heart, or enlighten your mind. This is a ministry for me...to write from my heart what the Lord speaks to me. I want to be a vessel that God uses for YOU.

So, in this post it will be up to God to move each of you accordingly. I have only been led to sing His praises. I could not let this experience pass without recognizing that I recognize HIM in this physical storm. I don't know if you are experiencing the affects of Ike or any future storms, but I pray you feel His presence. Even if you do not have electricity or cool nights or cookable food, I pray you still SEE Him.

These past few days I have not been able to stop thinking about folks who have or are enduring much more devastation closer to the eye of the storms. I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a home in a storm. I cannot imagine what it must be like to not have a bank to retrieve money. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have no clothes or possessions. I cannot imagine what it must be like to not find food or water. I cannot imagine what it must be like to not see an end to the devastations in days but rather weeks and months.

I pray the Lord's blessing on each of you whether you are weathering a storm physically, emotionally, or spiritually. These physical storms are also a reminder of the spiritual storms that are always brewing. We are always one step close to a spiritual battle. May we recognize this and have on our armor.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

Recognizing Him In It All,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Haves and Have Nots

I don't suspect the cliche that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence is a cliche for no reason. I'm sure there is some statistical data that would show that we as humans focus on the negative more than the positive in a person, situation, or circumstance. It is said that for every negative statement we receive (or speak) there needs to be five positive to counter act that negative. Think about feedback or comments at work. More times than not we will receive a comment on something we have done wrong than something we did well. It seems it is easier to give criticism than encouragement.

Why do we tend to pick out the bad in another than the good?

The family member who doesn't parent the way we see fit.
The neighbor who appears unfriendly and never speaks.
The co-worker who claims is short and rude.
The friend who doesn't call or email anymore.
The house that hasn't sold. :-)

Or it is rather....

The family member who does the best with the skills they themselves were taught growing up.
The neighbor who is just very shy.
The co-worker who is overworked because everything is dumped onto him/her and stress abounds.
The friend who doesn't know how much he/she is needed.
The house that serves a mighty purpose and purposes unknown.

How many times do we look at the things we do not have or that another does have. I admit I'm guilty.

I do not have a successful marriage.
I do not have a husband (legally).
I do not have a ministry involving writing, speaking, and leading.
I do not have children.
I do not have a beautiful complexion.
I do not have two-sizes smaller figure.
I do not have a stress-free job.
I do not have a sold house.

But I do have...

Parents who love and support me unconditionally.
A brother who would do anything for me.
A grandmother who is alive, kicking and as healthy as a horse (praise God).
Two nieces who adore me :-)
A body that is healthy and functions in all parts.
A job that fulfills.
A house that shelters me.
Friends who bless me unimaginably.
A President who professes his faith in God.
A church that allows me to worship freely.
Cyber friends without I can't imagine journeying life.
A ladies small group from church that I cherish.
Finances that provide.
A vehicle for comfortable transportation.
A ministry through my words on this blog, through comments, and email exchanges.
Salvation from my Lord and Savior.
Eternal security in Heaven.

A God who provides ALL of these.

It can be a continual effort to focus on the haves rather than the have nots. It should be easy as it is a command from the Lord to not envy what another has. I believe we shouldn't envy what we don't have either. However, being a command from the Lord does not make it easy but it does give us great motivation.

The word "have" always brings to my mind the scripture that I have paraphrased "you have not because you ask not."
You do not have, because you do not ask God. James 4:2b

That is not to say we will receive whatever we ask but yet...you conclude for yourself. It's one of those 'gray' scriptures much like
Matthew 21:22. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

I'm not sure how to fully understand these scriptures among other similar ones. However, I try do as they say.

This may be my shortest post yet. Time, life, and my heart have not allowed me to write of late. I long for it though, as it is a real time of communing with the Lord for me.

So, I leave you with a short list of my haves and have nots. May I encourage you that if you, like me, struggle with focusing on the have nots instead of the haves (even if it's momentary), give each have not to the Lord. The Lord tells us to test Him with our tithes and see if He won't bless us more. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. Malachi 3:10

I say "test" Him with your have nots and see if your haves don't increase. They may never increase in the areas or ways we wish or think, but He will open our eyes to see the haves we have [no pun intend :-)] and He will add to our haves in ways unimaginable.

Of course that word, unimaginable, reminds me of a verse very special to me because He fulfilled it (the verse) on 7/27/04 and 4/16/05 through the love of my life. So, I believe He will also do the unimaginable again one day. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20

My haves come from having Him,
(The picture is of my Crape Myrtle.)